Unggoy (Latin, Monachus frigus, meaning "cold monk"), also known as Grunts by many individuals, are a sapient species of squat bipedal xeno-arthropodal vertebroid lifeforms from the planet Balaho. In 2142, the Unggoy became the fourth species to be assimilated into the Covenant. During their tenure in the hegemony, Unggoy were always the lowest-ranking species in general terms, and were frequently mistreated by members of almost every other race, especially the Kig-Yar, Jiralhanae, and Sangheili.
Unggoy were primarily used by the Covenant as laborers or—in combat situations—cannon fodder. They are commonly referred to as "Grunts", mainly because they are considered weak compared to other former Covenant species and because they performed the majority of the labor required by the empire.
The Ark and reseeding
Unggoy are believed to have evolved from smaller amphibious primates. Prior to the activation of the Halo Array, the Unggoy had managed to achieve a Tier 4 society on their homeworld, Balaho. However, the planet and the Unggoy civilization was devastated by the collapse of its biosphere due to massive global over-industrialization.
The Unggoy were one of many species indexed by the Librarian for preservation on Installation 00 from the firing of the Halo Array. They were subsequently returned to their homeworld Balaho, where they began re-building their culture.
Induction into the Covenant
In 2142, the Unggoy and their defenseless homeworld were discovered by the Covenant. Most species of the Covenant became incorporated due to faith or mutual beneficence, however the Unggoy were forced into lowly positions within the Covenant through force and aggressive conversion. The Unggoy were quickly conquered with little resistance and were the seventh species to be inducted into the empire. The species was quick to become one of the most devoted followers of the Covenant religion and the Great Journey. It even became a popular notion among the Unggoy, thanks to the theologian, Ang'napnap the Enlightened, that the Forerunners' pre-ascension forms were akin to their very own. By the time of their discovery by the Covenant, the Unggoy homeworld was still recovering from its ecological collapse over a hundred millennia earlier, and the Unggoy's Tier 6 civilization had yet to return to its former state.
Being the lowest-ranked species of the Covenant, they are bitter rivals with the Kig-Yar, who are also low-ranked. The higher-ranking races of the Covenant have often ignored this rivalry. The growing Unggoy population on High Charity forced Kig-Yar to relocate their homes to accommodate the Unggoy. The move put stress on Kig-Yar females, which led to an increase in infant mortality, while Unggoy that were forced to share habitats with the Kig-Yar occasionally trampled their nests, inadvertently. The breaking point came when a junior staffer in the Ministry of Concert discovered evidence of the Kig-Yar planning to poison recreational narcotics the Unggoy enjoyed, which would have left them sterile. However, the Minister of Concert and the High Council refused to investigate the matter, as they were willing to accept several thousand sterile Unggoy rather than risk upsetting the Kig-Yar. The rising tensions with the Kig-Yar and the general disinterest from the other Covenant races led to the Unggoy Rebellion in 2462. While the rebellion was ultimately put down thanks to an Arbiter partially glassing Balaho, the Unggoy proved that they were not the cowards they had been long deemed, and could indeed be vicious fighters when provoked. After the uprising's conclusion, as was their tradition, the Sangheili forgave the surviving Unggoy and allowed them to enter the Covenant military as armed infantry units, rather than the unarmed cannon fodder as which they had previously served. The Unggoy rebelled several more times in Covenant history, including the Sixteenth Unggoy Disobedience, which was quickly ended by the Ministry of Preservation's Ripa 'Moramee.
Despite the low place they have in the Covenant hierarchy, the true irony is that the Unggoy's entry into the Covenant has ensured their species' survival. Membership in the Covenant granted the Unggoy freedom from risk of extinction during Balaho's two winters, as they now have access to sufficient supplies of food. Infant mortality has decreased to below fifty percent, and geronticide is no longer a necessity for survival. The average life expectancy for non-combatant Unggoy has doubled. Their incorporation into the Covenant likely also alleviated the threat of the Blue Death, which Unggoy typically fear.
The Unggoy were one of the first races in the Covenant to encounter humanity. During the First Battle of Harvest, Jiralhanae forces had Unggoy secure Harvest's orbital Tiara station. Most of the Unggoy present on the planet were killed in the battle; some were even killed by Jiralhanae and Yanme'e. In 2535, the High Prophet of Truth allowed Kig-Yar Reth to amass an army of thousands of Unggoy on the moon of Metisette to use to invade the human homeworld. Reth's plans were foiled by the Insurrectionists of the Rubble, UNSC Midsummer Night, and a team of Sangheili Zealots that believed the Unggoy and Kig-Yar to be heretics, unaware of Truth's orders. Most of the Unggoy on the moon were killed during the Battle of Metisette. The Unggoy's large numbers and fast breeding proved to be a pivotal asset to the Covenant during the Human-Covenant War, as they were able to overwhelm human forces with their sheer numbers, and were even known to have massacred an entire platoon.
The Unggoy obeyed other Covenant races out of fear more than religious faith. During the Great Schism, as the Unggoy did not ally with a particular side, and stayed with whoever commanded them, most likely out of subservient fear to their current masters. However, many of those serving under the Jiralhanae still held support for the Sangheili and revered Arbiter Thel 'Vadam, pointing out to their comrades that they once served under him. The Minister of Discovery believed that the Unggoy would follow the strongest side in the civil war.
After the Human-Covenant War, at least some of the Unggoy continued working for the Sangheili as farmers on Sanghelios, while others continued to work in the military under either their Sangheili or Jiralhanae commanders. Many Unggoy returned to Balaho after the war. A number of Unggoy joined—or were drafted into—the various splinter groups that upheld the Covenant's religious beliefs after the war, most notably Jul 'Mdama's Covenant. ONI surveys record no off-planet transport from Balaho since "Solipsis" and seem to indicate that facilities on Balaho's primary satellite Buwan has been abandoned, though both remain under observation. Moderate Unggoy populations have been observed in Sangheili systems at various intervals. The Office of Naval Intelligence speculates that several independent vessels and colonial facilities are under the control of Unggoy factions, yet no significant populations of unaffiliated Unggoy are known to exist among the human colonies. By 2558, some Unggoy had taken up residence in the city of Paxopolis on the Forerunner shield world of Trevelyan.
Some Unggoy would find themselves in more respected positions in the post-war years. Within the Swords of Sanghelios, they were treated as equals and two of them, Bibjam and Stolt, were known to have even had command over Sangheili.
After October 28, 2558, the Unggoy on Balaho allied themselves with Cortana and the Created, and they were granted with nearly limitless resources: ships loaded with advanced technology arrived, new agricultural support stations appeared in orbit, awaiting eager workers to feed the desperate masses below. This gave the chaotic conditions of Balaho a semblance of stability and order, as well as a new purpose. With their pressing requirements – food, shelter, medicine – met, Balaho's finest designers and crafters set out to work tirelessly to build their future.
Unggoy are, in general, poor soldiers in terms of skill and combat ability. They are poor shots when not focused, are physically weak, and are tactically inept as a rule. If their commanders are eliminated during combat, they frequently panic and scatter in random directions. However, what Unggoy may lack in individual skill, they make up for with tenacity and sheer numbers. The Covenant used the high breeding rate of the Unggoy to their advantage in the Human-Covenant War, where squads of Unggoy frequently overpowered UNSC personnel through force of numbers.
Unggoy are the only Covenant species to breathe methane rather than oxygen. Their combat armor/harness has an integrated methane re-breather system, as Unggoy are unable to survive for long periods of time without methane due to asphyxiation. Unggoy could be afflicted by barnacles; the removal of barnacles leads to deep, oozing pores in their chitinous skin.
Psychology and behavior
Although other species generally regard the Unggoy as a dim-witted race, many have proven to be very intelligent, resourceful, and knowledgeable. Indeed, the general perception of the Unggoy being inherently unintelligent is almost certainly a result of their poor education and training within the Covenant. Unggoy are one of the most gregarious and sociable of the Covenant races and possess a very strong pack mentality, often associating with each other in groups. This numerical superiority and pack mentality allows for their sense of cultural identity to remain, despite a number of hardships, including their extreme subservience to the other races of the Covenant, as well as the dark time following reintroduction after the activation of the Halo Array.
Unggoy develop sensory-motor integration relatively rapidly, and possess unburdened neural pathways which allow them to absorb knowledge more freely compared to the other Covenant species. As such, they were often tasked by the Covenant with monitoring space for traces of human communication. In addition, many Unggoy have developed a clear understanding of two or even three human languages. This advantage serves as a river of confidence in times of great stress for them. The Unggoy Deacon Dadab was also able to learn and communicate in Huragok sign language.
Anatomy and physiology
The taxonomic classification of the Unggoy has been a source of some confusion for the United Nations Space Command. Because they possess exoskeletons, they have been identified as being analogous to Earth arthropods; despite this, the Unggoy are actually a vertebrate species. The UNSC misclassified the species as arthropodal due to their physiological similarities to terrestrial arthropods; among other differences, the Unggoy circulatory system is apparently closed as opposed to the open systems characteristic of many arthropods. More accurately, the species should be considered xeno-arthropodal vertebrates which possess substantial—albeit hypothetical—genetic influences from primate-like amphibians that once dwelt in Balaho's aphotic zones. This taxonomically incorrect nomenclature persists as late as 2557 as an ad hoc identifier, though the pressures of the Human-Covenant War and reconstruction have made such concerns trivial at best.
Unggoy share a number of features with different animal species on Earth. Like primates, they walk both bipedally and with the aid of their oversized forearms. However, their bodies are armored with a hard exoskeleton as with crabs and insects. Their mouths have a set of small, pointed teeth, much like reptiles. Unggoy are on average about four to five feet tall and are relatively weak compared to other sapient species. The Unggoy have flat, three-toed feet, with another toe on the back of their feet. Although they can easily walk upright on two legs, they may often use their arms to move in a quadrupedal fashion. While carrying armaments, they are forced to walk upright so that they may support their weapons with their hands, but while trying to flee, or while patrolling without a weapon drawn, they use their oversized arms as forelegs to add speed or stability to their gait. Their eyesight and hearing are average, and seem to have a very well-developed sense of smell, sometimes sniffing the air to detect traces of foes or hidden enemies. This is facilitated through the olfactory membranes installed in their masks. Unggoy have oversized forearms, while their upper arms and thighs are relatively small. This has allowed them to be quite excellent climbers over rocky terrain, although they are rather clumsy when walking upright. Their large arms help the Unggoy in hand-to-hand combat and scaling heights, but make movement around tight corridors or manipulation of small, delicate objects difficult. To protect themselves from the voracious predators of Balaho, the Unggoy have a rigid exoskeleton that is lined with sharp barbs that covers large portions of their backs, arms, and legs. They also have an astonishingly fast finger reflex speed, as they can fire a plasma pistol at almost the same rate a Sangheili can with a plasma rifle.
Unggoy also have thick, bioluminescent, light-blue blood, possibly a result of methane-based proteins in the blood to facilitate methane-based respiration. Like Earth's horseshoe crabs, it is possible that their blood is blue due to high copper content.
Although they require an atmosphere to breathe, Unggoy are capable of surviving in the vacuum of space without sealed, full-body gear. However, they must employ sealed face masks in order to breathe, as well as presumably to protect their facial tissues.
Some Unggoy, commonly seen among bands of Covenant remnant forces in the mid 2550s, have exoskeletons that cover only patches on their bodies, leaving most of their skin exposed; the paucity of chitin means that the elbow and knee spikes of these individuals are less pronounced. Unlike other Unggoy, which have a chitinous protrusion that covers the groin and posterior, these Unggoy are unarmored in this area, exposing their primate-like buttocks. Their necks are also several times longer than normal (Unggoy typically have almost non-existent necks) and their heads are set farther forward; folds of loose skin hang down from their necks and chins, likely due to the relative lack of chitin. Their eyes are reddish orange and feature black, cross-shaped pupils, unlike the solid red or yellow eyes of their kin. Their mouths are set farther inward and house larger, more pointed teeth. These specimens have much stouter legs and have longer and thinner fingernails than the rest of the species, and they possess claws meant for climbing and digging on their feet instead of the more common hoof-like digits. What sets these Unggoy apart—morphologically speaking—is that they are sourced from specific breeding zones. This indicates either prolonged genetic drift in refugia populations or induced selection. In any case, such morphological variation can be likened to the differences among Earth's dog breeds.
Unggoy breed prodigiously, with large egg clutches and short childhood periods. Adulthood is reached between the ages of 5 and 8 years. This combined with the large number of young per clutch, which could range from 5 to 12 Unggoy, and rapid sensory-motor integration development was one of the primary reasons why the Covenant cleverly used the breeding habits of the Unggoy to their advantage in battle, deploying the Unggoy as cannon fodder—this would play a key-role in their war against humanity. Overpopulation is a serious problem and in non-war times, strict laws are placed on Unggoy breeding.
Unggoy do value their ties to their offspring, but are usually separated from their families at an early age by the requirements of military service to the Covenant. They resent this greatly, but because of their low social status in the Covenant, they are unable to muster any response.
Although the Unggoy culture has been largely wiped out as a result of constant indoctrination by the Covenant, they do retain a degree of their cultural identity as a result of their inherent tenacity. Of what is known, the Unggoy generally live in small, tribal societies which are typically defined as being matriarchal. Unggoy family structure is polyamorous, with several male and female Unggoy living together. On Balaho, Unggoy had to constantly produce food to ensure that they had enough stocked during the planet's winter seasons. On a near-daily basis, the corpses of those that succumbed to Balaho's plagues had to be burned to further prevent infections. Both of these problems were solved when the Unggoy were discovered by the Covenant. Unggoy universally agree that their species is embodied by three pillars: ruggedness, agility, and lethality. The wise Ang'napnap the Enlightened, the charismatic Awlphhum Who Became Tolerable, and the strategist Yayep the Archdeacon of Indolence are revered as historical heroes by the Unggoy.
Many Unggoy are interested in human culture. During their service with the Covenant, Unggoy enjoyed trading human communication files, such as soap operas and sitcoms, through their own black market. Unggoy often gamble with each other and often play games; one in particular, hunting rock, involves two Unggoy competing to kill the most scrub grubs. Unggoy were also known to take recreational narcotics called infusions by adding them to their portable methane tanks.
Role within the Covenant
Believed to be rather unintelligent by the San'Shyuum, Unggoy were generally forced to serve in laboring positions or deployed into battle as cannon fodder. During engagements, they were often deployed as the first wave of attack in ground campaigns or Unggoy were deployed in high numbers to undertake various types of operations. Most Unggoy that served aboard Covenant warships were tasked with monitoring human communications, leading to most members of the species having a better grasp on English than other species. The lower districts of High Charity housed a massive Unggoy population; the Unggoy-inhabited portion of the districts was methane-rich so the Unggoy did not require methane tanks to breathe.
The Unggoy's lowly position within the Covenant was based on racial bias rather than the species' inherent abilities. The Unggoy were not represented on the Covenant High Council but were instead vetted by the Ministry of Concert, albeit poorly. The Unggoy were mistreated by nearly every client species of the Covenant, except the Huragok. They were often treated as second-class citizens within Covenant society. The Unggoy had a particularly tense relationship with the Kig-Yar, a race only ranked slightly higher in the Covenant hierarchy. Despite both species holding similar standings, the Kig-Yar were granted more independence and often favored over the Unggoy by other individuals in the Covenant. Unggoy were expected to revere Sangheili as the near-divine protectors of the San'Shyuum, however many Unggoy despised the Sangheili for mistreating their race. While they were essentially a slave race, the Unggoy have managed to largely retain their cultural identities, and have rebelled in the past more than once. Before the Unggoy Rebellion of 2462, Unggoy were not given the right to use weapons in battle. When the rebellion proved to the Sangheili that Unggoy could be determined and competent fighters, they were given better training and weaponry, and integrated into formerly Sangheili-only units. Within the Unggoy community there is a general strong hatred of the other Covenant species, due to the fear they face. This causes many Unggoy to believe that someday a dynamic grunt will lead them to freedom on a methane-rich paradise world.
Unggoy generally followed a few short, simple guidelines given to them by the Sangheili; for example, "When in doubt, shoot" or "Stay out of the way, live another day". Despite being held in low regard by the Covenant, many Unggoy were strong followers of the Covenant religion and the Great Journey. Their Deacons would often hold sermons onboard ships to boost the morale and teach the Unggoy onboard about the Covenant. For instance, a Deacon named Dadab gave sermons and taught the Unggoy on board a Jiralhanae cruiser about the Covenant and its religion. The Jiralhanae allowed Dadab these teachings because they believed that it would help the Unggoy become more competent and helpful.
Their native language is composed of dog-like barks, squeaks, and grunts. Though largely unintelligible to most humans, translation software is able to decipher the meanings of these. The word "Unggoy" itself is not a word from their vocabulary, rather, it is the Sangheili name for their species. Unggoy are also fully capable of speaking a variety of human languages, a fact in which they take great pride.
Unggoy often have names which reflect a language of very simple phonics. Common names, such as Yayap and Dadab, begin with a reduplicated consonant and consist of two syllables. Other names typically consist of a single syllable with clusters of consonants, such as "Flim". Some exceptions have occurred of which a name has more consonants than is usual while following the first method of naming, as in Kwassass. Often, their names are palindromes, such as Zawaz.
The Sangheili did not permit the Unggoy to retain family names during their service in the Covenant. Instead, they formally identified themselves by the names and birthplaces of famous patriarchs within their family. This patriarch could be the Unggoy's uncle, grandfather, or even a mythical paterfamilias that was revered by their ancestors. An example of this identification method would be "Yayap, son of Pum. Of Balaho's blasted scablands." Following the end of the Human-Covenant war, individual Unggoy serving under the Swords of Sanghelios and Jul 'Mdama's Covenant faction have begun to use family names to identify themselves, such as Dimkee Hotay.
Homeworld and colonies
The Unggoy homeworld of Balaho is a temperate, swampy planet with a methane atmosphere and naturally occurring pillars of fire. The planet is orbited by two natural satellites: Buwan and Padpad. A cold planet, temperatures on Balaho range from -33°C to 5°C (-27°F to 41°F). The cold season of their planet makes them highly covet any source of warmth and light they can find, mainly due to the "blue death". The planet is still in process of recovery from a global ecological collapse before the activation of the Halo Array due to over-industrialization caused by the Unggoy at the time.
Since their natural environment has a methane atmosphere, Unggoy require methane tanks and breathing apparatus with them whenever they travel into areas without high levels of methane in the air. Since all the other races of the Covenant (as well as humanity) breathe oxygen, the Unggoy find themselves wearing breathing masks more often than not. They sometimes inhabit large environment domes that have airlocks and methane filters for them to breathe while not in armor, while those in military service often restock their methane reserves at battlefield recharge stations. Unggoy have high-pitched and squeaky voices, possibly due to the different resonating properties of methane gas.
Unggoy populations also inhabit colonies of the former Covenant; a number of such worlds have fallen under the control of the Banished. On Balaho, the harsh environment of the planet typically weeds out psychologically aberrant individuals. On more hospitable worlds, however, Unggoy populations are able to grow without this natural culling process. The Banished take advantage of this, drawing psychotic and fanatical Unggoy specimens from these colonies to serve in their suicide squads.
Other titles and roles
Deaconship is the only position open to the Unggoy in the Ministry of Tranquility. Unlike many other roles available to the Unggoy, this rank does not often involve combat or hard manual labor, though they have been known to carry around plasma pistols and Needlers.
Some Unggoy are also known to serve as merchants and are well-respected in the Covenant hierarchy. During the Ascension ceremony of the Covenant's last triumvirate of Hierarchs, a Yanme'e queen, Kig-Yar Shipmasters, and Unggoy traders were present. It was also said that their harnesses were adorned with large jewels.
While regular Unggoy infantry occasionally choose to employ suicide attacks out of desperation, the Covenant were also known to purposefully assign select fanatical Unggoy squads to use such attacks as their primary offensive tactic against the enemy. The Banished later adopted similar tactics.
Overall, the Unggoy in gameplay are very weak in combat; often fleeing when their leader has been killed. However, in larger numbers, they can be more of a threat, especially in higher difficulties. If their leader is killed, Unggoy may sometimes activate two plasma grenades and rush to the player in an attempt to suicide-bomb them.
In Halo Wars, the Unggoy serves as the main infantry unit, serving as the Covenant equivalent to the Marine. They start with a plasma pistol and three in each squad, but they can be upgraded to wield needlers.
A melee attack can kill a Grunt instantly, so when you face no more than 5 of them, don't waste your ammo and just punch them. For large groups use the Gravity Hammer, unless the catch skull is on meaning you have to stay outside their range, as even in close-range the Grunts will not hesitate to spam-grenades at the enemy.
List of appearances